The concept of inside and outside is important. It is not a difficult concept, but is easy to confuse context.

Many words in every language describe physical, logical, and or spiritual concepts. We commonly attempt to communicate logical and spiritual concepts using physical words. We might say that one store is further along that road than another store. Then use that concept, with its inherent complexity, in a logical sense. For example: the study of calculus is further in math than algebra.

Note that some today will argue that “farther” should be used in one sense and “further” in another. But the history of the word shows the 2 as interchangeable. Lexicographers are observers, not legislators. If I use a word intending distinction of the nuance, I should be somewhat confident in the audience concepts.

The words “inside” and “outside”, with related synonyms, are words that are very commonly used to describe physical, logical, philosophical, and spiritual concepts.

One could be outside the physical building called a church. Not eating a meal with the group because of being physically separated.

One could be outside the logical group that is specific membership in a legal entity called a church. Able to eat a meal in the building, but recognized as a non-member.

One could be outside the philosophical group that is a set of doctrines that differentiate one group that is called a church. Able to eat a meal in the building, but recognized as a different denomination.

One could be outside the spiritual group that Jesus called his church. Able to eat a meal in the building, but recognized as not yet saved.

Along the same line (using analogous language again):

One could disassociate with someone by avoiding physical contact with them, for example, not going to a restaurant to eat with them.

One could disassociate with someone by not talking with them, for example, not answering phone calls, talking at the market, or engaging in social media exchanges.

One could disassociate with someone by recognizing the different doctrinal views, for example, at a meal with a group being clear that the other person is of Apollos while you are of Paul. “I am not associated with the group that follows Apollos”, you might explain.

One could disassociate with someone by recognizing that your core concepts of reality are very different. At the meal with a group, you might say “I know that my friend believes that modern science has moved humanity further towards freedom from the need for a creator being, but I am not associated with that movement. I believe that Jesus is the presence of the Most High God, and is so very different than anything else in our existence.”

In this last sense we can see the same theme throughout the Bible: while you are joyously representing the Living God of Love to people, disassociate from them. Only possible, really, in the sense of being clear about your core belief system.

In a similar construct, we see Paul using words to indicate which kingdom to assign and assess our existence. Throughout his Letters he refers to “the Flesh”, “the Spirit”, “inheritance”, “Death”, “Life”, etc.

Further in this study we will be focusing on 1 Corinthians 5. In verse 2 Paul uses a Greek word that is often translated as “midst” for this passage. This word is an excellent example of this topic. Some New Testament authors used the word in a way that we can see they meant the physical context, such as “Jesus walked through the midst of the crowd”.

Here are some of the passages where Paul uses the word:

  • In the same Letter, Paul uses the same word shortly after his use in 1 Corinthians 5:2. In this same context of the same Letter on the same subject, Paul sarcastically asks if this group (the Body of the Christ) does not have anyone wise enough to adjudicate between brothers. The word “between” is “midst” – clearly abstract meaning not physical.
  • In 2 Corinthians 6 Paul is admonishing the Body of the Christ to be a separated people, separate because of their righteousness they have obtained through faith, separated from the Lawlessness that is an unavoidable consequence of following Law – breaking the least command puts one in violation of the whole Law. In this passage Paul quotes from Isaiah “come out from among them”. The word “among” is “midst”. Isaiah is prophesying about the Glorious Salvation that God is bringing and encouraging everyone in the world to separate themselves. In can only mean in an abstract sense, as opposed to physical. They are to abandon the old and look to God for the New. Which Jesus revealed and Paul is teaching.
  • In Philippians 2 Paul is again encouraging the believers to recognize that they are different and quit arguing because they should stand in contrast to the world “among whom you shine like stars in the world”. Yes, the word is translated as “among” here.
  • In Colossians 2, Paul ties the separation directly to concepts, encouraging the Body to quit thinking using the “elemental” concepts of this world. The “elemental” concepts are also an important topic in 1 Corinthians. Paul uses our word in a very important way “ He erased the certificate of debt, with its obligations, that was against us and opposed to us, and has taken it out of the way by nailing it to the cross.” In this sentence of tremendous importance, the phrase “out of the way” is our word “midst”. This is the separation, we are separated from the penalty for sin because Jesus, the Christ, paid for every sin.

These concepts, this ability to see the abstract application of words indicating position, will be very important as we continue our study of the Measure of Acceptability.

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